“This ministry is the work of a loving God who pressed it upon my heart to be unsettled by the people in need that I could see with my own eyes.” — Kelly*, Founder of Friendship Ministry
Before the pandemic began, my friend, Kelly, and her family would pack “friendship bags” at home. These bags contained a bottle of water, peanut butter crackers, an apple or orange, granola bars, cookies, and beef jerky. They were called “friendship bags” because Kelly’s children would point out anyone who looked in need and describe them as “homeless.” My friend taught her children these individuals were our friends. They are God’s children, the same as us. When Kelly and her family pass out a bag to someone on the street asking for money, they collect their name and a prayer request and add them to their prayer wall at home.
Kelly describes it as God’s grace when they indeed began making friends. This was the prompting my friend needed to develop a more elaborate ministry. While delivering “friendship bags,” they made friends with someone living on a street in downtown Dallas by the library.
When the pandemic began, the weather was awful; for 10 consecutive days, it rained. (Keep in mind: Those without shelter bare the burden of weather severely.) My friend requested that her husband go with her to check on their friend. One early morning, Kelly, along with her husband and kids loaded into the car and drove by the library to visit him. His tent was soaked completely through, all his belongings were wet, and he was very hungry.
While checking on her friend by the library, she noticed a huge group of people sleeping outside of the doors. It was heart-wrenching. Many people were wet, hungry, and without hope. This is when Kelly knew God was calling her to something greater.
Her husband was hesitant considering the large number of people (40-50) in need. Kelly reiterated, “Our God is not a God of confusion.” Therefore, eventually, Kelly and her husband reached a place of agreement and went all-in. They fed their new friends at least one meal or snack daily for a week before they ran out of funds.
God called Kelly to reach out to her friends, family, and church for assistance to continue helping those without food and shelter. Their response can only be described as the work of the Lord. With permission from the county judge’s office (Clay Jenkins), they were able to continue their work as an essential service during shelter-in-place. Kelly initiated a GoFundMe page to help cover the expenses. She also established relationships with the Dallas Police Department, the public library, and the folks at City Hall.
Describing her amazement at what God has done through Friendship Ministry, Kelly says, “What a God we serve to have connected my hands with the hands of the people I am able to work with to serve these people. He has moved the hearts of my family and friends and the people at church to give in a way that still leaves me breathless.”
Kelly describes how the funds are restocked every time they run low. It’s truly a miracle how God allowed them to continue taking food for over three months during the COVID-19 lockdown. The ministry has expanded to help support 150-300 individuals living in the convention center downtown as well as 50-60 others who do not.
Friendship Ministry is one of the very few groups allowed into the “tent city” as it is deemed at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. Many shelters have closed their doors due to the pandemic. Most, if not all, programs refuse to accept new clients. The situation is dire for those without.
Kelly wants to educate people how the homeless community is complex. Many suffer from a variety of mental disorders, dementia, and drug and alcohol addiction. It can become a vicious cycle for some who experience joblessness, felonies, and/or family issues. The community is diverse ranging from elderly couples to pregnant women, teenagers, and many individuals with disabilities. Those often caught in the cycle of homelessness face impossible odds for escape. They miss opportunities we might not consider such as the recent stimulus check or other helpful programs because they have no address or bank account. Some even lack proper identification documents.
It can be easy to dismiss this population and believe there is plenty of opportunity for them to rise above their circumstance. Some may even believe homelessness is a consequence of making poor choices. But haven’t we all found ourselves in impossible circumstances that were beyond our control? Haven’t we all made poor choices at some point in our lives?
Kelly prays, as society transitions to what we consider “more normal,” people will continue to support this ministry.
“For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’” Deuteronomy 15:11 (NASB)
COVID-19 may be temporary, but being the hands and feet of Jesus is eternal. Food comes and goes; Kelly prays, if even one soul comes to know Jesus as their savior, then it is a job well done.
“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NASB)
Currently, Friendship Ministry is looking for donations in the form of goods or financial contributions. To find out how you can support Friendship Ministry to be here for good for the homeless community, email Marissa Fuqua at [email protected].
*The founder of this ministry desires to remain anonymous. For the purpose of the story, she is referred to as Kelly.
At Chase Oaks, we have launched the Here For Good movement to serve our neighbors and care for the most vulnerable. We have various opportunities to give, serve, and include others to be here for good. Check out ways you can be here for good today!